Democratisation, NGOs and “colour revolutions” Salman Rushdie. 2005. Shalimar the Clown. OpenDemocracy. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/colour_revolutions_3196jsp/ What Happened to the Colour Revolutions? Authoritarian Responses from Former Soviet Spaces Donnacha O Beachain and Abel Polese. 2010. Journal of International and Area Studies. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43107207?read-now=1#page_scan_tab_contents “Surfing the wave”
“the best evidence typically points toward identity-based explanations: Racial and cultural conflicts are far, far more important than the kind of economic alienation Brooks wants to highlight. This is true not only in the United States but in other countries facing similar challenges from far-right populist movements — important comparison points that Brooks entirely leaves out.
Brooks’s column makes some important points, particularly about the flaws in the American economic model. But it’s one thing to point out those flaws, and another thing to posit that (as a matter of fact) they are behind the great divides in our politics — when in fact they are not.”
“A 2022 paper by two political scientists, Kristin Lunz Trujillo and Zack Crowley, examined this theory explicitly: testing a sense of political and cultural alienation (what they call “symbolic” concerns) versus a sense of economic deprivation in predicting rural voter support for Trump.
They found that “only the symbolic subdimensions of rural consciousness positively and significantly correlate with Trump support.” If anything, they found, rural voters who feel more economically deprived are less likely to vote for Trump than their peers.
Similarly, a 2020 paper found that Trump supporters in poorer areas tend to be the “locally affluent whites:” people whose incomes might not put them in the national one percent, but who are doing a fair sight better than others in the same zip code. Think plumbers and auto dealers, not laid-off factory workers.”
“Let me propose an alternative theory — one that aligns much better with the available evidence than the economic anxiety idea.
This story starts with the late 20th-century revolution in social values: the end of segregation, mass nonwhite immigration, feminist challenges to patriarchy, a decline in traditional Christianity, and the rise of the LGBTQ movement. This revolution has transformed America at fundamental levels: the kinds of people who hold positions of power, the ideas that command cultural respect, and even the kinds of food Americans eat and languages they speak in public.
For millions of Americans, these changes made them feel unmoored from their country— “strangers in their own land,” as the sociologist Arlie Hochschild put it. Whether because of pure bigotry or a more diffuse sense of cultural alienation from the mainstream, a large number of Americans came to believe that they are losing America. For historical reasons owing largely to the legacy of the civil rights movement, these voters became concentrated in the Republican party — forming at least a plurality of its primary electorate. The election of Barack Obama, a self-described “Black man with a funny name,” pushed their sense of social alienation to the breaking point.
This cultural anxiety created room for Trump, who rode this group’s collective resentments to control of the Republican party. It is not the only reason he won the presidency — in a close election like 2016, a million different things likely made the difference — but it is the most important reason why he has maintained a lock on the Republican party for the better part of a decade.
We know this, primarily, because social scientists have been testing the theory since 2016 — and comparing it with Brooks’s preferred explanations rooted in resentment at a rigged economic game. Again and again, the cultural theory has won out.”
“in 2018, a trio of scholars used survey data to compare explanations of Trump support based on racism, sexism, and a sense of economic alienation. The former two are far more powerful predictors than the latter, almost entirely explaining Trump’s surge in support among white non-college voters. “Controlling for racism and sexism effectively restores the education gap among whites to what it had been in every election since 2000,” they write.
A 2018 report from the Voter Study Group, authored by pollster Robert Griffin and political scientist John Sides, tested what they called the “prevailing narrative” of the 2016 election that “focused heavily on the economic concerns of [the white working class].” They found that typical methods of measuring economic distress were flawed and that more precise measurements show little effect on the 2016 outcome. “Instead,” they write, “attitudes about race and ethnicity were more strongly related to how people voted.”
A 2018 paper by Alan Abramowitz and Jennifer McCoy, two leading political scientists, tested correlations between white voters’ favorable views of Hillary Clinton and Trump and a battery of different variables. What they found, at this point, shouldn’t surprise you.
“After party identification, racial/ethnic resentment was by far the strongest predictor of relative ratings of Trump and Clinton — the higher the score on the racial/ethnic resentment scale, the more favorably white voters rated Trump relative to Clinton,” they write. “The impact of the racial/ethnic resentment scale was much stronger than that of any of the economic variables included in the analysis, including opinions about free trade deals and economic mobility.”
These are three studies from a single year. There are dozens of other papers, reports, and even entire books coming to similar conclusions. These studies don’t explain everything about Trump or Republican support — such as the party’s recent gains among Black and especially Latino voters — but they do an excellent job answering the question that Brooks poses in his column: Why does Trump maintain such a hard core of support despite everything that he’s done?”
“wages aren’t as fluid as, say, gas prices, which seem to jump up or down in an instant. There are reasons for this. Gas prices are easily observed and easily changed, and people will happily switch stations to save a few cents per gallon. Labor markets aren’t like this at all. Switching jobs takes time and effort, and many workers are reluctant to give up the devil they know for the devil they don’t. Employers capitalize on this situation by adjusting wages slowly, if at all.”
“High inflation, combined with slow wage adjustment, drives purchasing power down. And this is true not just for the US. Canada’s post-Covid pay has followed the same trajectory as ours, and it is not alone.”
“To climb out of this hole, real wages will have to start growing again. The good news is that they already have. Annual real wage changes turned positive in February; month-on-month changes turned positive late last year. In this respect, we are doing well. Most European economies still haven’t seen real wage growth.
Furthermore, this hole is shallower than it may seem. Since late 2020, real wage reductions have cost households a little less than $1 trillion. That is a lot, without a doubt, but it is less than half of what households received in Covid-related transfers — stimulus payments, expanded unemployment insurance, child care credits, and the like — which amounted to $2 trillion. That puts them well ahead of where they were in March 2020, which is why people report that their own finances are doing just fine, even while they trash the state of the economy.”
“What we need to free ourselves from is the preconception that low unemployment alone makes a good labor market. Where we actually are is simple to understand. Dollar wages adjust slowly to price increases. Inflation has raised prices a lot, reducing purchasing power. As a result, the public is not happy about the economy.”
“Fernando Villavicencio, an Ecuadorian presidential candidate who ran heavily on an anti-corruption message, has been assassinated less than two weeks before the nation’s presidential elections. Villavicencio, a centrist candidate for the Build Ecuador Movement, was gunned down after a political rally on Wednesday, a shocking act in a country that’s historically been peaceful until recent years.
His killing underscores a recent surge in drug-related violence in Ecuador, and has prompted new scrutiny of the growing presence of cartels in the region.”
“The 3,000 sailors and Marines arrived in the Middle East on August 6 alongside a deployment of US fighter jets to the region.
What exactly they’ll be doing isn’t yet clear: If US troops were to board commercial ships, the details would need to be worked out with the companies and countries in question. US officials told the Associated Press that such a policy is under consideration. (The Department of Defense did not respond to Vox’s questions for this story by press time.)
The Biden administration says that the Iranian threat to tanker traffic is the reason for the deployment of sailors and Marines. Iran seized two oil tankers in a week this past spring. Iran also intercepted a Tanzanian-flagged tanker on July 6, a day after the US Navy intervened to dissuade Iran from nearly seizing two ships. Iran has said that it sees itself as responsible for the security of the Gulf, not least because of its long coastline, and claimed it has not illegally seized tankers.
Other factors may be contributing to Biden’s decision-making: The US might be thinking about balancing China’s increased presence in the Middle East, as epitomized by the spring’s surprise rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The US also might be responding to concerns from other partners in the region, especially as the US is pushing for Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize relations. “The noise has increased a lot from Gulf partners, especially as the [Biden] administration is pressuring Gulf partners on a number of different issues, including normalization with Israel,” Simone Ledeen, who served as a senior defense official in the Trump administration, told me. “It’s certainly connected.”
Above all, Iranian actions in the Gulf could affect oil prices. For President Biden, keeping oil prices low has been a priority of utmost importance. It’s partly why he traveled to Saudi Arabia last summer to make up with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. And since then, the Biden administration has sought to reassure Gulf partners like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates of US commitment to the Middle East.
This “forward-deployed presence provides US officials with options,” writes analyst Bilal Saab, that would make Iran “think twice before using violence to achieve its political aims.””
“The establishment clause provides simply that there can be no law “respecting an establishment of religion.” It does not explain what an “establishment of religion” is. Nor does it lay out in any detail when the government can and cannot provide benefits to a religious institution.
Armed only with this vague text, the Supreme Court has offered several competing explanations for why the establishment clause exists and what it was intended to prevent. At times, the Court has said that it exists to prevent the government from coercing nonbelievers into acts of devotion they find objectionable. At other times, the Court has described the establishment clause as a nod to pluralism — something that allows many religious traditions to thrive in the United States by forbidding the government from taking sides in religious debates.
Everson was rooted in the first of these two rationales, the belief that the government may not coerce others into religious exercise. As Justice Hugo Black wrote in that case, the clause is intended to universalize a Virginia statute, authored by Thomas Jefferson, which provided that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.”
Everson read this prohibition on coerced religious activity expansively to include not just direct use of force against nonbelievers, but also the use of taxes collected from the general public to fund religion. As Black wrote, “individual religious liberty could be achieved best under a government which was stripped of all power to tax, to support, or otherwise to assist any or all religions, or to interfere with the beliefs of any religious individual or group.””
“Fifteen years later, in Engel v. Vitale (1962), Black laid out a different theory of why the establishment clause exists.
In Engel, the Court struck down a school district’s policy of requiring teachers to begin each school day by reciting a prayer authored by the school board. “One of the greatest dangers to the freedom of the individual to worship in his own way,” Black warned, “lay in the Government’s placing its official stamp of approval upon one particular kind of prayer or one particular form of religious services.”
The central idea animating Engel was that, if the government is allowed to write prayers or otherwise put its seal of approval on particular religious practices, then US politics will inevitably be consumed by religious believers from competing faiths, all lobbying elected officials to make sure that their religion receives the government’s blessing.
The Court reached this conclusion after considering 16th-century English history, when Parliament approved a Book of Common Prayer that “set out in minute detail the accepted form and content of prayer and other religious ceremonies to be used in the established, tax-supported Church of England.” This led to perpetual lobbying, and frequent strife, over just what prayers the government should endorse and which ones it should reject. Powerful religious groups “struggled among themselves to impress their particular views upon the Government,” while less powerful religious believers literally fled the country — many of them becoming early American colonists.
According to Engel, the First Amendment was drafted in large part to prevent this kind of strife among religious factions from occurring in the United States. The founding generation, Black wrote, was not willing “to let the content of their prayers and their privilege of praying whenever they pleased be influenced by the ballot box.”
Thus, while Everson read the establishment clause as a shield against the government coercing nonbelievers into participating in religion, Engel saw it more as a safeguard for pluralism. The idea behind the later decision was that, for multiple faith traditions to coexist peacefully in the United States, the government had to be hyper-cautious about picking favorites among them.
Of course, these two theories of the establishment clause are not mutually exclusive”
” before the Roberts Court started dismantling the establishment clause’s safeguards, the Court recognized two values implicit in this clause: 1) the right to be free from coerced religious activity, and 2) the right to live in a pluralistic society where the government does not favor one person’s religion over the other. The right against coercion extended not just to direct pressure by the state, but also to more subtle forms of pressure such as a public school ceremony that effectively forces a student to choose between participating in a prayer or risking ostracizing themselves from their classmates. Meanwhile, the pluralistic right prevented the government from endorsing a particular religious viewpoint above others.
All of that went by the wayside, however, in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (2022).”
“Bremerton is a mystifying decision, in part because the six Republican-appointed justices in the majority took great liberties with the case’s facts. It involved a high school football coach who would pray at the 50-yard line following games — in full view of students, players, and spectators, and sometimes surrounded by many of them as he was praying. There are photographs of crowds surrounding this coach as he prayed, some of which were included in Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent.
Yet Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the Court’s opinion, falsely claimed that this coach only wanted to offer a “short, private, personal prayer.””
“while the Bremerton opinion is not a model of clarity, two lessons can be extracted from it. One is that the ban on government endorsements of religion — the mechanism the Court used to ensure that a plurality of faiths would thrive in the United States — is now dead. The other is that, while the Court still recognizes that some forms of government coercion into religious behavior are not allowed, its Republican majority appears eager to narrow the definition of “coercion.” There may even be five votes for Scalia’s position — that the government may actively promote religion so long as it does not use force or the threat of penalty to do so.”
“One form of coercion that the current Court permits is the government may now take taxes from a nonbeliever — taxes that the nonbeliever must pay to avoid criminal sanctions — and use them to fund religious education.”
“Read together, the Roberts Court’s establishment clause cases suggest that the Court probably will not neutralize this clause altogether. But they have already neutralized many of its modern applications, and they appear likely to endorse government behavior that would not have been tolerated even in the recent past.”
“Districts in which one or more minority racial or ethnic groups constitute a majority of the population now make up nearly one-third of all House seats. Correspondingly, the number of representatives who identify as Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, American Indian and/or Alaska Native has also increased. Around 7 in 10 of these members hail from majority-minority seats, indicative of these seats’ importance in ensuring representation for minority groups. At the same time, people of color are winning more majority-white seats than in the past. Success in those sorts of districts has increased as our politics have grown more partisan, as voters are increasingly likely to back their party regardless of the candidate their party nominates.”
“after the 2020 round of redistricting, majority-Black constituencies were roughly halved while seats that were 40 to 50 percent Black nearly tripled. Slow population growth in Northern states led to lost seats in reapportionment, which notably increased each state’s population per district and complicated drawing seats with Black majorities. For instance, New York’s three majority-Black districts in New York City became plurality-Black seats as the state lost a seat and the average number of people per district grew by about 60,000. Lines drawn by partisan mapmakers or independent redistricting commissions also affected the number of majority-Black seats. Florida, for example, drew two fewer majority-Black seats after the 2020 census (although those seats remained solidly majority-minority overall) and controversially unwound one plurality-Black seat; the latter move faces continued litigation.
Black representation, like that of other groups, also intersects with our sharply polarized politics. Because voters of color tend to lean Democratic — Black voters overwhelmingly so — concentrating voters of color in one district can make surrounding seats more Republican. As a result, recent redistricting conflicts have largely centered on GOP attempts to pack more Black voters in majority-Black districts to make nearby seats redder and Democrats’ efforts to unpack heavily Black districts to add Democratic-leaning voters to surrounding districts. Lublin’s research shows that Black candidates (again usually Democrats) can regularly win seats that are 40 to 50 percent Black, depending in part on the share of white voters in the seat and how Republican-leaning they are.”